Why Toddlers Love Repetition

13 - 18 Months

Your child’s favorite word during this year will be “More!” Toddlers take special delight in doing the same thing over and over again because it’s their own scientific way of investigating the world and mastering new skills.

While your child’s insistence on doing things over and over again can seem tedious to you, she is actually introducing subtle changes into each repetition. For example, your child might bang a wooden block on the table and pay attention to how the sound changes when she bangs harder. Then she may use a plastic hammer and pick up other close about the characteristics of the two materials.

While adults crave variety, a toddler needs repeated confirmation that things stay the same. So much is new and overwhelming for a toddler, but repeating an activity helps her learn what to expect. That’s why repetitive songs such as “Old McDonald Had a Farm” are such a big hit at this age; there’s a predictable pattern that empowers little ones with the knowledge of what’s going to happen next. This is why your child may want you to read the same story over and over again night after night. Knowing what comes next is the fun part. Being able to predict what characters are going to do is a skill one-year-olds don’t possess in most other circumstances.

Repeated experience also seems to inoculate toddlers against forgetting. Even for adults, learning any new skill, from playing the piano to playing tennis, takes repeated practice. To your toddler, so much of what she does is a new skill, and repetition is her way of remembering how to perform it the next time.

Understanding your toddler’s need for repetition may make it easier for you to grin-and-bear through one more reading of her favorite book. But don’t hesitate to put limits on some activities also. If your child wants you to read the bedtime story for the tenth time, it’s okay to put an end to the marathon and promise another reading in the morning.

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